Your washing machine is a staple of your home and one of the most useful appliances you can have. It allows you to get other things done while doing laundry, saving those time-consuming trips to the laundromat. It also allows you to pretreat spills and clean garments quickly to prevent stains. And, let’s face it, having your own washing machine is a lot nicer than going to the laundromat or hiring someone to do your laundry.
Since your washing machine treats you well, you should treat it well in return. This means performing maintenance when necessary, checking on it every once in a while and also cleaning it. You might think that a washing machine doesn't need cleaning, but that's not the case. Many components, including the detergent and fabric softener dispensers, require regular cleaning to remove built-up grime. However, there is a right way and a wrong way to go about this. Don't worry, though, as we are here to tell you everything you need to know.
How to Clean a Front-Loading Washing Machine
There are plenty of benefits to a front-loading washing machine. You don't have to do as much bending, and it can be easier to get clothes in. Plus, they simply get more dirt out of clothing than traditional washing machines. If you have one of these and want to keep it perfectly clean, check out the cleaning tips below.
Clean Your Front-Loading Machine’s Exterior and Gaskets
Clean the door and the area directly outside the drum first. Make sure to get into all the nooks and crannies, as those areas are where grime, mildew and debris tend to build up.
Next, inspect and wipe down any rubber seals or gaskets. It's hard to see the grime on rubber gaskets and seals, so be sure to give them a thorough scrub. A solution of water and white vinegar usually works well, but if you find mildew or mold, you might need to step up to peroxide and then wipe down the area again to remove it. Baking soda might also work, but take care not to use too much.
Inspect and Clean the Dispensers
A lot of grime and mildew tends to build up in fabric softener and laundry detergent dispensers. The bleach dispenser might need some TLC, too. If your dispensers are grimy or coated in hard water residue, you should be able to remove them for easy cleaning. Many just pop out, but some are a bit trickier. Consult the manual if you’re unsure how to remove the dispenser.
Once removed, thoroughly clean the dispenser(s) using white vinegar or bleach. If necessary, use a toothbrush to get into all the nooks and crannies. When finished, rinse with hot water before reinserting it in your washing machine.
Clean the Drum
Next comes the easy part. Put between one and two cups of white vinegar inside the laundry detergent dispenser. The exact amount varies depending on the size of your washer. Then, run your washing machine with nothing inside it. Use your front load washer’s highest temperature setting. If your machine has a “sanitize” setting, use this instead.
If you’d prefer a ready-made option over a DIY solution, purchase a washing machine cleaner and use it according to the instructions on the packaging. Usually, you just pour the washing machine cleaner into the detergent dispenser and run a load on the machine’s hottest setting.
Check Your Washing Machine and Remove Any Remaining Grime
After letting it run, come back to the machine later and check the inside. Some grime, lint or other debris might have come loose but not been rinsed away. Remove it as soon as possible so it doesn’t dry on and become more difficult to remove.
If your washing machine still seems pretty dirty or has an unpleasant smell, proceed to the next step. Otherwise, you’re finished.
Repeat the Process with Baking Soda or Washing Machine Cleaner
Sometimes, one cleaning cycle isn’t enough. When you really need to deep clean your machine, run a second cycle. Instead of using vinegar, though, add baking soda to the machine. Or, if you previously used a washing machine cleaner, run a second cycle using a second pack. Either way, this will help eliminate debris and odors that might still be in your machine.
- You can't, however, use both at once. They'll cancel each other out and you'll just be wasting time and product in the process.
How to Clean a Top-Loader
A top-loader may require similar deep cleaning and use a lot of the same products, but it can be a different process entirely. Top-loaders are still popular with some perks, such as handling more clothes per load on average and being easier to add things mid-load. Some people prefer top-load washers because they don’t tend to develop mildew odors as easily. And others find that they simply prefer this style over front-loading models.
Here are a few tips for cleaning your top-loading washing machine.
Clean the Exterior and Lid
First, clean all the nooks and crannies just like you would on a front-loader, making sure to get rid of any mildew that's building up. Wipe down the exterior and lid. If necessary, use an old toothbrush to scrub away stuck-on detergent, fabric softener, etc.
Inspect and Clean the Dispensers
Not all top-loading washing machines have dispensers, but many newer models do. Though convenient, these dispensers provide a perfect place for dirt, grime and mildew to accumulate. Usually, you can remove dispensers to make cleaning a bit easier.
Clean laundry detergent, fabric softener and bleach dispensers using white vinegar (or chlorine bleach). Scrub with a toothbrush to make sure you get into every crevice. Rinse with hot water before replacing it in your machine.
Clean the Drum
Without adding any clothes to the washer, fill the machine with hot water. Once the drum is full, stop the cycle to prevent it from draining out. Then, add 2-4 cups of white vinegar. Stir it around and let sit for about an hour.
- There's not much difference between this solution and what you would use to clean the outside of your washing machine.
Once the solution has had time to sit, continue the wash cycle as planned.
Check Your Machine
Once the cycle completes, look inside your washing machine to see if any dirt or grime was stirred up and left behind. If so, clean it up as soon as possible. Smell inside the machine, too, to determine if there is any lingering odor. If everything seems fresh and clean, your washing machine is good to go. If not, proceed to the next step.
Repeat with Baking Soda
Remove remaining odors from your washing machine by running a second cycle using baking soda. Do not use both vinegar and baking soda as the chemical reaction between these two ingredients will cancel out the odor-eliminating properties of baking soda.
Cleaning a Washing Machine with Bleach
We all know that bleach is a powerful disinfectant. As such, you might be wondering if you can use it to clean your washer instead of using white vinegar, baking soda or washing machine cleaner. Check your machine’s manual to determine the answer. Bleach is fine for cleaning some machines, while it may be unsafe for others.
If you decide to use bleach, be careful to avoid spills. Wear gloves and a mask, too, especially if your washing machine is in a small, enclosed area. When finished, run an empty cycle with hot water to remove any remaining traces of bleach. Be sure to thoroughly wipe your machine down if you use bleach on the exterior.
Cleaning the Outside of a Washing Machine
When cleaning the washing machine as a whole, be sure to deep clean the entire exterior, even if you dust or wipe it down regularly. It's all part of the process.
We recommend using a cloth that is not too abrasive. You don't want to make any scratches or marks on your washing machine while you're cleaning it. A hard sponge or steel wool is not needed for cleaning anything to do with your washer. A microfiber cloth is perfect.
In terms of the exact process, there is nothing special. Use the usual wipes, methods and tools that you use with just about any appliance. For the smallest nooks and crannies, you could use an old toothbrush to get in there. This can be especially handy when cleaning the outside of the drum.
Why You Need to Clean Your Washing Machine
While your washing machine might look clean, we promise that unless you have cleaned it recently, there is some gunk you will have to contend with. Take a moment and shine a flashlight in and around your machine and see what you find. At the very least, you’ll probably find some lint or soap scum.
We'll let you have a moment to be disgusted, but keep in mind that it’s completely normal to find debris and grime inside your machine. It could be cookie crumbs, bits of hair and skin or general dirt that accumulates on your clothes. You shouldn't worry about them on your clothes every day, but they do build up over time into what you might find in your washing machine.
Furthermore, the environment inside a washing machine is perfect for mold and mildew. It's regularly wet and dark, and there are parts you'd never notice without looking for them specifically. That mold and mildew can spread easily to your clothing if left unaddressed.
Finally, just the washing process itself can clog the machine over time. If you have a problem with hard water, there can be a buildup — plus a buildup of detergents that you have to deal with. While you can ignore it for a short time, eventually, the washer will not work as well due to clogged parts.
Additional Tips and Notes
- There might be a few removable parts in your washing machine that need cleaning. Instead of putting in a lot of work getting every nook and cranny, you could soak them in a vinegar solution (two parts water to one part vinegar) instead and rinse them off when you're done cleaning everything else.
- There might be specific cleaning instructions for your washing machine. After all, every model is a bit different. In these cases, the instructions given by the manufacturer take precedence over our recommendations.
- While all of these processes are relatively safe, you might want to open a window or get some airflow going during the process. Vinegar and other cleaning products can be strong. Also, take breaks as needed, especially if you have to move heavy items around or contort yourself.
- To make things easier for yourself in the future, try to keep the door to the washing machine open when not in use, if only by a crack. That allows the inside to dry more efficiently and helps slow the potential growth of mold.
- You can also prevent soap scum buildup by using the appropriate amount of detergent for each load. You can do this by using our eco friendly laundry detergent sheets which are convenient to use without measuring. Just use anywhere from a half sheet to two sheets depending on the size of your laundry load.
Don't Forget the Dryer
If you are cleaning your washing machine, then you probably own a dryer as well. If so, it might be a great time to start cleaning that, too. While we won't go into the exact method in this article, doing both at once can be convenient. If the two are a combined set, you very much want to get it all done at once, lest the mess spread easily between the two.
We recommend you follow this guide and that you take your time to check every nook and cranny of your dryer. It is some extra work and time, but it too will be worth it.
Cleaning the washing machine can seem like a huge chore, but it is absolutely worth it when you think about the improved cleanliness of your home, your clothes and your life in general. Not only that, you are likely improving the longevity of your appliance in the process. We hope this guide has shown you the importance of the task and told you everything you need to know. Happy cleaning!